Sand exports in limbo

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Dith Tina from the Ministry of Mines and Energy at yesterday’s forum. KT/Mai Vireak

Sand exports will remain suspended amid questions about a 56 million-ton discrepancy in deliveries to Singapore.

Dith Tina, a secretary of state and spokesman for the Ministry of Mines and Energy, said yesterday that no date had been set for the exports to resume.

He spoke at a public forum titled “The truth about sand exports abroad” at the general department of petroleum at which more than 100 youths, students, civil servants and community members took part.

Mr. Tina said the ministry was preparing to improve procedures to allow civil society to monitor sand exports to avoid any suspicion or accusation against the government.

“Until now, we have not yet determined how long we will suspend the exports,” he said.

“If we continue to do without civil society participation, they will shout that there is no transparency or clarity.

“We are preparing procedures to let them join. Also, when we look at the bureaucracy, we will affect another aspect which is trade facilitation.”

On October 13, 47 civil society organizations and communities issued an open letter asking the ministry to clarify sand exports from 2007 to 2015 after it emerged that there was a difference of nearly 70 million tons between the Cambodian and Singaporean figures.

The ministry has tried to explain the problem with the Singapore records in the National Assembly.

After that there was customs data from India obtained by NGO Mother Nature activists which showed more than 108,000 tons of sand, worth $2.7 million, were sent from Cambodia to India between 2013 and 2015, while Cambodian Customs did not have any figures on sand exports to India.

Mr. Tina confirmed that the ministry did not grant any licenses for sand to be exported to India.

However, the ministry did not impose any conditions on destination countries to export sand because Cambodia has a free market system, he said.

He said that Mines Ministry is responsible for licensing, overseeing the execution of the company in compliance with licensing conditions and collecting royalty with proper evaluation of the impact on the environment.

In a public forum on macroeconomic management and the 2017 budget on Monday, executive director of Transparency International Cambodia Preap Kol said ministries – especially the Ministry of Economy and Finance – should take action to find out about the differences in the figures.

Vongsey Vissoth, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Economy and Finance, responded that the ministry was investigating the case as sand exports were a source of budget revenue, among other natural resources.

However, the case took time and involved cooperation from relevant parties, he said.

“The ministry did not ignore it. All of these workers have to collaborate internationally and conduct studies,” he said.

“This unofficial figure cannot be taken as the basis of conclusions that can cause confusion as today’s media system is very complex,” he said.

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